Tag Archives: rockaway

Little North Pole Christmas celebration


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo by Vito Catalano

The North Pole came to Neponsit Beach for a night and the community celebrated Christmas in style.

Lights showered Joe Mure’s Neponsit Avenue home where he hosted his annual “Little North Pole” event to benefit juvenile diabetes on Saturday. A Christmas display surrounded the house and close to 5,000 people came to see the show, Mure said, including local elected officials, community leaders and thousands of borough residents.

The spectacle raised roughly $200,000 which will go directly to juvenile diabetes research.

Local joints such as VetroLenny’s Clam Bar and Lucy’s sausage and peppers donated heaps of food and local performers sang and danced through the night.

“We put smiles on every single face that was out there,” Mure said. “We put on a show that was both appropriate and great for both kids and adults.”

Then, Santa Claus came to town, riding a sled perched on a flatbed. Several emergency vehicles followed him with their sirens on and lights swirling.

“If you sat out there, you watched Santa Claus show up with the sirens and lights from the sky, you would have a memory of Christmas that will last you a lifetime,” Mure said.

The Little North Pole, a tradition held for nearly two decades, was put on hold last year after Sandy. But now, Mure said they are back, “stronger and brighter than ever.”

“We live in the heart of Rockaway. A year ago, we had nothing,” he said. “I think the kickoff of the Little North Pole was some sort of proof that we’re alive, we’re back.”

 

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Retired FDNY lieutenant featured in documentary series highlighting ‘unsung heroes’


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Coyne PR

John Nolan, retired FDNY lieutenant, worked to rebuild homes in Sandy-devastated communities after the superstorm and became one of the area’s many “unsung heroes.”

Now, Shell Rotella, an engine oil organization, has highlighted Nolan and several others in a short-form documentary series, “Unsung Heroes,” that tells the stories of these overlooked saviors and how their work and lifestyles are intertwined.

Nolan’s nearly five-minute clip opens up with the firefighter-turned-contractor pulling up to Breezy Point’s fire zone, which was reduced from over 100 homes to just rubble.

He said the night of the storm, the 500 active firemen in the neighborhood tried to save whatever they could after floodwaters rose high and a blaze broke out, catching quickly.

“Early evening when the fire started, it went to high winds, homes were catching fire one right after the other,” he said.

A shift in the wind allowed the Fire Department to get water on the houses that hadn’t yet started burning, but even still, the day after “it was just massive destruction everywhere,” Nolan said. “The entire community needed help.”

He and others from the fire “brotherhood” worked through the summer to get the beach front community back on its feet.

“We came together as the Fire Department always does and did whatever we had to do to get the people back into their homes,” he said. “It seems like every day is a sense of urgency; there aren’t enough hours in the day.”

He continued, “In Queens, you don’t judge a guy by how tough he is, by how many guys he can knock down. You judge a guy by how many times he can get back up,” he said. “That’s the Rockaway, Breezy community. They’re a resilient group of people.”

Nolan’s story and the other “unsung heroes” can be seen on www.youtube.com/rotellaunsung.

“Working on a project like “Unsung” really opened my eyes to the men and women working tirelessly to keep this country moving,” said Geoffrey Campbell, producer of the documentaries. “I have a newfound gratitude for the many people who put in long hours and work hard in a truck each day.”

 

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Pol asks AG to investigate Sandy contractor fraud


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Sandy brought a wave of fraudulent fixes to south Queens, and one elected official wants them wiped out.

Following the superstorm, many affected residents fell victim to fraudulent contractors who “promised to rebuild their homes, but have either left before completing the job or disappeared with [their] deposit without performing the necessary repairs,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder.

Goldfeder wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, requesting he “immediately investigate” and hold all out-of-state and local fraudulent contractors accountable.

“Residents who have spent their hard-earned money and savings to rebuild deserve to have the work done as promoted by their contractor,” Goldfeder said in his letter.

He said this is a “community-wide concern” in Howard Beach, Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel and Rockaway and many are “still struggling to finish repairs left from the storm damage.”

This October, Schneiderman prosecuted a Long Island based organization which “used deceptive practices in an attempt to obtain business from victims” of Sandy.

G.C. Environmental, Inc. of Bay Shore was fined $40,000 after mailing more than 2,000 letters resembling State Department of Environmental Conservation notices of violation to property owners who had suffered petroleum spills as a result of the storm, warning victims of an impending fine if they did not seek repairs.

Additionally, in July, Schneiderman filed lawsuits against four service stations in Kings, Nassau and Suffolk County Supreme Courts for gas price gouging following the storm. The attorney general’s office reached settlements with 25 stations, and additional investigations are pending.
Schneiderman’s office did not return a request for comment regarding Goldfeder’s letter.

“It is of paramount importance that we continue to help homeowners and revive our communities,” Goldfeder said.

 

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Majority of Queens schools score well on progress reports


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

The majority of Queens schools scored high on the Department of Education’s (DOE) recently released progress reports.

Out of the 62 Queens high schools that were issued 2012-2013 progress reports, 31 earned As, 16 Bs, 6 Cs, 5 Ds and 4 Fs.

The highest scoring institution was Long Island City’s Academy for Careers in Television and Film, which just moved into a new building at the beginning of this school year. It received an overall score of 100.9.

Flushing High School, Pan American International High School in Elmhurst, Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School in Far Rockaway and August Martin High School in Jamaica earned overall failing grades.

Progress reports were issued for 239 Queens elementary and middle schools. Fifty-eight of them earned As, 97 Bs, 74 Cs, nine Ds and only one, Springfield Gardens’ Community Voices Middle School, failed.

Waterside School for Leadership in Rockaway was the highest ranking Queens middle school, with an overall score of 90.3, and P.S. 203 Oakland Gardens was the top-rated elementary school in the borough, with an overall score of 86.5.

Across the city, the DOE found public school performance “remained consistent, with 87 percent of schools maintaining their grade or moving one grade compared to last year.”

The reports are based on students’ progress, performance, attendance and surveys of parents, students and teachers. High school progress reports also measure college and career readiness.

According to the DOE, more students are graduating from high school ready for college and careers.

The reports found that the four-year college readiness rate is up nearly 3 points since last year.

“The most important job of our schools is ensuring students are on track to succeed in college and their careers,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott. “These results are further evidence that the hard work of our teachers and principals is paying off.”

This year’s school progress reports were the last ones issued during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure.

They could see some changes when they are issued under the Bill de Blasio administration.

“While Mayor-elect de Blasio supports making overall school progress reports available to parents, he would eliminate letter grades of schools which offer little real insight to parents and are not a reliable indicator of how schools are actually performing,” his spokesperson Lis Smith said.

To find a specific school’s progress report, visit http://schools.nyc.gov/ProgressReport.

 

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Police shoot, critically wound armed man in Far Rockaway


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

Police officers shot and critically injured a man in Far Rockaway early this morning, after officials said he aimed a weapon at cops.

The incident started when four officers responded to a 9-1-1 call for assault on the 3rd floor of the Beach 41st Street Houses at 40-20 Beach Channel Drive around 12:40 a.m.

The cops heard screams coming from the stairwell upon entering the building and saw a 25-year-old man with a gun, authorities said.

The officers told the man to drop the weapon, but he fled up the stairs, and then pointed the gun at the cops, according to the police.

One cop fired and struck the man in his torso, officials said, and the man was transported to Jamaica Hospital, where he is still listed in critical condition. Officials recovered a 9mm Hi-Point model “C”gun at the scene. Charges are pending.

Two officers were also taken to local hospitals for minor injuries stemming from the confrontation.

The investigation is ongoing.

 

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Close race called for incumbent Councilmember Ulrich, Simon not conceding


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Votes were counted down to the bitter end before a winner was declared in City Council District 32, and Republican Councilmember Eric Ulrich has reclaimed his seat.

“This race was a real nail biter,” Ulrich said in front of family and friends on election night.

As the results trickled in, Ulrich and his Democratic opponent, Lew Simon, were nearly 50/50 on votes, according to preliminary numbers.

However, both candidates took to the mic and declared victory to their respective crowds.

“It appears that we have won,” Simon said in Rockaway.

Meanwhile, in Howard Beach, Ulrich assured his constituents that he had “the most up-to-date information” and that he had a “very strong lead.”

“Many of you have been with me since the beginning, and this is not going to end,” said the incumbent.

When Ulrich caught wind that Simon too had called the race in his own favor, he responded, “Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.”

However, Simon’s camp came back and accused Ulrich of adapting the ways of the Tea Party where “losing is winning and less is more.”

Simon and his team are still “status quo,” said Doug Forand, spokesperson for Simon. The group plans to wait until all paper ballots are counted and will respond to those results.

“We defied expectations. Few people thought it would be such a tight race. And the race isn’t over yet. We want to make sure every single vote is properly counted,” Simon said. “I’m overwhelmed by the outpouring of support across this district, including from many Republican voters who clearly want a change in leadership.”

According to unofficial results, Ulrich came out on top with 53 percent of the vote and was declared the winner by both the New York Times and the Associated Press.

“I was re-elected by my constituents, and I have a lot of work to do,” said Ulrich, now the only Republican in the Council’s Queens delegation.

He said he will work with the newly elected administration in a bipartisan way, and looks forward to finding out what role he can play in the City Council after a new Speaker is elected.

Regarding any potential role as a Minority Leader in the City Council, Ulrich said it’s “too premature to be talking about leadership roles,” and his time in office still comes second to current Minority Leader James Oddo of Staten Island.

Regardless, during his next term, Ulrich also hopes to revamp the Republican “brand” and work to restore the public’s faith in his party line.

As Ulrich wound down his victory speech, he raised his hands one last time.

“Go to bed tonight and know we kicked Lew Simon’s ass. Let’s have a drink.”

Doctors of the World opens free health clinic in the Rockaways


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Doctors of the World

Doctors of the World has officially opened its doors, and the Rockaways have a new, free health clinic during a time some have called a “health crisis in the borough.”

This is the first and only location in the country for Doctors of the World, which offers services in 79 other countries. Set at 2-30 Beach 102nd Street, it provides free primary medical services.

“We’ve had an overwhelming response so far,” said Dr. Amber Featherstone, medical director at the new clinic.

Featherstone previously worked overseas in Africa with Doctors Without Borders, and is excited to continue work with an international organization. She said she sees some parallels with patients stateside and those abroad.

“Patients don’t have access to good care,” she said. “They wait until they’re really sick to get care, or they care for themselves as best they can, but they are not able to fully fund the medication they need. The problems become more complicated because of that.”

Featherstone hopes that she and her team can get patients “some kind of medical insurance coverage, or help them get more stabilized in care,” she said, and be available to the people who aren’t getting the “continuous care they need.”

Currently, the Rockaway office, aside from Featherstone, has a clinic manager and a nurse manager. They are looking for volunteers, including medical providers, nurse practitioners, nursing staff, medical assistants and anybody who can perform administrative services.

“Especially people who are local and want to give something back,” Featherstone said.

As of now, operating hours are Thursdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but Featherstone expects those days and hours to increase if they maintain the current customer volume. They are already booked solid for the next two weeks.

The majority of their clientele, Featherstone said, are patients needing a full, physical exam. “People who have been out of care, trying to hold it together for medical coverage,” she said.

A handful of patients prior to visiting Doctors of the World were paying out of pocket for things such as diabetes medicine. Now, Doctors is trying to establish partnerships with medical providers so as to ease the cost for patients.

The group has already formed a partnership with St. John’s Episcopal Hospital for lower radiology rates, as well as Rite Aid for Medicaid rates.

However, for the first month of care, Doctors of the World is able to cover medication cost, but they “don’t have the funding to continue to cover long-term,” Featherstone said. They are hoping to get more funding for “that particular cost in the near future.”

 

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Rockaway car crash kills two teens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

A car crash on the Rockaway Freeway has taken the life of two teens, police said.

Around 3 a.m. on Saturday morning, a 19-year-old male was driving on the freeway near Beach 41st Street when his Toyota Corolla struck a cement support pillar.

A 15-year-old male traveling in the front passenger seat was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police. Another 14-year-old passenger was transported to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Charges against the driver are pending investigation. Identification of the victims is awaiting family notification.

 

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Rockaway residents fear losing community’s last hospital


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder.

The Peninsula’s lone hospital is in critical condition.

Rockaway residents fear financial problems at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital will close the last safety net hospital in their community.

“Queens is a healthy borough, but we can’t continue to grow if we continue to lose hospitals,” said Peter Vallone, Jr., city councilmember and borough president candidate.

If St. John’s Episcopal were to close its doors, the nearest hospital, Jamaica Hospital, is more than a 20-minute drive away.

Changes, however, have already been made at St. John’s, which declined to disclose its financial situation to The Courier.

The detox unit has closed and several clinics and nursing homes are being outsourced, according to hospital officials.

Richard Brown, the hospital’s Interim Chief Operating Officer, said the unit’s closure will allow space for “much-needed” medical and surgical beds in the 257-bed building.

Additionally, St. John’s Family Practice, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics clinics have begun collaborative initiatives with the Joseph P. Addabbo Family Health Centers.

However, St. John’s is “considering all necessary action, including possible layoffs” to maintain the hospital’s stability.

“We cannot let community healthcare disappear from the Rockaways,” said Bill de Blasio, public advocate, mayoral candidate and a staunch supporter of outer borough hospitals. “We have to stop these free-fall closures that hollow out neighborhood healthcare.”

The hospital board is also exploring merger options with other health systems. The community hopes for a merger with major hospital chain North Shore LIJ, but Brown said no overtures between the two have been made.

 

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Rockaway woman honored at White House as ‘Champion of Change’


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Sandy brought forth countless “Champions of Change,” one of whom the White House recognized in an event honoring Americans striving to improve their communities through technology and civic participation.

Jessica Klein, a Rockaway resident, civic hacker and designer, received the Champion of Change award for her work through the website www.rockawayhelp.org.

Klein co-founded the site with other locals in the wake of Sandy to empower the community to find solutions, provide emergency response information and much more geared towards helping Rockaway rebuild.

She was one of 14 recipients from all over the country honored for doing “extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” according to the White House website.

The Civic Hacking and Open Government section in which Klein was recognized was for those who have made a “tremendous, positive impact” by building high-tech tools to help health workers and disaster-response crews better serve communities as well as “piloting programs to involve traditionally disengaged communities.”

President Barack Obama said the champs for change have “a belief in working at the grassroots level and getting people engaged” and an understanding that “change happens from the bottom up.”

Additionally, Klein led workshops and “hackathons” for designers, engineers and Rockway residents to identify problems and discover ways to get the rebuilding show on the road.

Klein also created the Hackasaurus project, Web X-Ray Goggles and Thimble tools to help teens learn how to code through hacking. She has worked at learning institutions such as the Museum of Art and Design, the Rubin Museum of Art and the Institute of Play. She also founded OceanLab NYC, a project engaging parents, teachers and youth with their urban coastal environment.

 

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Program may bring $100 million to help rebuild Sandy-damaged southern Queens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program could bring roughly $100 million to help southern Queens rebuild bigger and better after Sandy.

Rockaway is set to receive $60 million, $13 million for Broad Channel and $20 million for Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach for “protection funding,” said Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder.

However, through this unique program, community leaders, experts and officials in each neighborhood will form committees to determine just how the rebuilding will pan out.

“New York’s effort to build back better must be a two-pronged approach,” Cuomo said, “with the state not only leading critical infrastructure and broad investment strategies but also providing localities the resources they need to invest in their own future.”

Goldfeder said community members know their community better than anybody else and there is “no such thing as a bad idea when it comes to storm mitigation.”

“If you allow the community to have a voice, you can get things done but ensure that it’s in line with what the community desires,” he said.

Committees are still being finalized in each individual area, but the state would like to receive rebuilding proposals within eight months.

“Arguably you could see shovels in the ground within a year,” Goldfeder said.

 

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UPDATE: Seven-month-old kidnapped by Queens mother found safe


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYPD

UPDATE: An Amber Alert has been cancelled for a seventh-month-old boy who was kidnapped by his non-custodial mother.

Both the mother, Marina Lopez, and child, Mario Danner Jr., have been found in good condition, said police.

Lopez has been arrested and charged with custodial interference, authorities said Wednesday evening.

An Amber Alert has been issued for a seventh-month-old boy who was kidnapped by his non-custodial mother.

Marina Lopez took her son during a supervised visit at an Administration for Children’s Services at 2090 7th Avenue in Manhattan at 3:05 p.m. Tuesday, July 13, said police.

Her son, Mario Danner Jr., is Hispanic, approximately 20 inches long, 25 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a gray t-shirt and black shorts.

Lopez is described as Hispanic, 25 years old, 5 feet 7 inches tall, about 130 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. She is bi-polar and has had recent outbreaks of violence.

She was last seen wearing a pink t-shirt and floral print shorts traveling on foot, possibly toward Shore Front Parkway in Rockaway, according to officials. Lopez may be driving a tan, four-door, 1995 Lexus ES300 with New York license plate GEX1377.

Anyone with any information on this abduction is asked to call the NYPD at (866) NYS-AMBER or 9-1-1.

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup

TODAY’S FORECAST

Friday: Overcast with thunderstorms and rain showers. High of 84. Breezy. Winds from the NE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Friday night: Overcast with a chance of a thunderstorm and a chance of rain, then a chance of rain after midnight. Low of 70. Winds from the NE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Solshyne Band Concert

Enjoy live music at Beach 97th Street and Shorefront Parkway at 7 p.m. with a popular classic rock band from Rockaway. Free. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Spitzer submits signatures to get on comptroller ballot

Eliot Spitzer has met the deadline to file thousands of petition signatures for his bid to revive his political career by running for New York City comptroller. Read more: AP

Police: Firefighter charged in Friday’s brawl had prior arrest 

A city firefighter who was arrested for attacking and robbing an off-duty police officer in Queens also has a domestic assault record, police say. Read more: NY1

Coalition calls for change to age of adult criminal responsibility in New York

Every year, nearly 50,000 children arrested, charged and processed in New York are done so as adults, and a new coalition of advocates and lawmakers wants that to change. Read more: CBS New York/AP

Free iPads at the airport

Going to the airport used to be all about catching a flight, but now, it’s turning into an interactive experience. Read more: Fox New York

FDA sets new limits on arsenic in apple juice

Parents who have been fretting over the low levels of arsenic found in apple juice can feel better about buying one of their kids’ favorite drinks. Read more: AP

Ozone Howard Little League takes District 27 tournament


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Andy Menechella

BENJAMIN FANG

Their teamwork paid off.

The Ozone Howard Little League’s age 10-11 division won the Queens District 27 tournament on June 30, besting the Rockaway Little League in a three-game series.

“This was an overall team effort and a great accomplishment for these kids,” Ozone Howard’s manager John Miden said.

“They played hard and should be proud.”

In the first game against Rockaway, Ozone Howard’s Thomas Menechella pitched four scoreless innings and gave up a total of just two hits in an 11-0 win. Ozone Howard won the following game in similar fashion. Pitcher John Corcoran allowed just two hits and Ozone Howard’s offense exploded for a 12-0 victory.

“This team has talent and they are playing up to their potential right now,” coach Andy Menechella said. “Great pitching, timely hitting and a great overall team effort. As coaches of this team, we are proud.”

Ozone Howard’s next opponent will be the winner of a three-team race between Long Island’s Oceanside American Little League, Lynbrook Little League and Rockville Center Little League.

 

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NYC pilot to extend school day for sixth graders


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo by Johann Hamilton

The last bell will ring two and a half hours later for 2,000 of the city’s sixth graders starting this fall.

A pilot program will provide additional literacy training at 20 middle schools with high-needs students, including five in Queens, according to the Department of Education (DOE).

The schools are also part of a 40-school expansion of the Middle School Quality Initiative (MSQI), which provides extensive literary instruction in grades six through eight.

“We are committed to ensuring that all students are prepared for college and 21st century careers, and the Middle School Quality Initiative has been central to this mission,” said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

The Queens schools participating in the pilot are P.S./I.S. 116 William C. Hughley in Jamaica, Waterside School for Leadership in Rockaway, P.S. 043 in Far Rockaway, Queens United Middle School in Springfield Gardens and Village Academy in Far Rockaway.

The $6.2 million for the MSQI expansion comes from the City Council and DOE along with contributions from the Robin Hood Foundation, a nonprofit that helps fight poverty, and other groups.

“We are confident that a daily dose of extra tutoring for students struggling with English language arts will significantly increase students’ ability to comprehend at [their] grade level across all subjects,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

However, Patricia Simmons, a school aid at P.S./I.S. 116, believes money can be allocated in better ways.

“If they’d just give the schools the supplies they need, then they wouldn’t need to extend the time,” she said. “So many classes don’t have enough textbooks or workbooks.”

Another faculty member was concerned about the age of the students in the program.

“For the little kids, it’ll be too much, but the older ones will be able to handle it,” said a teacher who wanted to remain anonymous.

Tedric Simpson, a former student, also agreed the pilot might be taxing on the sixth graders.

“It’s too much school for one day. They could maybe do it from Monday to Wednesday, but not every day,” she said.

For parents, the benefit went beyond learning.

“Some parents can’t afford babysitters, so the extra hours could be good for them,” said Jean Elie.

With additional reporting by Johann Hamilton

 

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